It’s unsurprisingly tough to fulfill your wanderlust when you have rent, car payments, and student loans every month. Especially considering that, in 2014, the average American college student graduated with close to $29,000 in student loan debt.
But did you know that there is a way to travel the world while paying off your student loans?
Several countries offer working holiday visas to US citizens. These work visas are fairly easy to obtain, and are generally available to people aged 18-30 (with a few exceptions). Working your way around the globe is a great way to travel while paying off your debt.
Each country has specific requirements, but in general, you must be in good health, have no prior convictions, hold at least a high school diploma, and travel with no dependents.
Now the tough question: Where do you want to go?
I graduated in 2012 with a Master’s degree and $44,103 in student loan debt between my undergraduate and graduate degrees. I spent several years working in the corporate world before I discovered the world of the working holiday visa.
So, in November of 2015, I said goodbye to my boring job and moved 10,000 miles away to Australia, where I have been ever since. I’ve managed to travel around most of Australia, and I can still pay my student loan bills each month!
Now, where do you want to go?
Australia is perfect for the sun goddess, while New Zealand will keep your adrenaline pumping for days. Singapore and South Korea offer opportunities to live and work in completely different cultures, while Ireland allows you to experience the Old World.
Wherever you choose, you’re going to have the adventure of a lifetime.
Australia is more than just the Sydney Opera House and kangaroos. It’s an incredibly diverse country with tons of incredible potential adventures awaiting. Americans under the age of 35 qualify for the subclass 462 visa, which allows you to work and live in Australia for up to one year.
While Australia can be an expensive country to live in, the minimum wage is $17.70. If you budget your money right, you’ll be able to pay your student loans each month while saving money to explore the Great Barrier Reef or Uluru, travel throughout the country’s many varied cities, and learn how to surf.
Many backpackers find work in hospitality, agriculture, and childcare — among other jobs. High-paying professional or blue collar jobs are available in both cities and suburbs. I spent four months working on two different horse farms. I even had the opportunity to go to the Rio Olympics too!
The only downside is that you’re allowed to work for an employer for only up to six months.
You can apply for an Australian working holiday visa online.
Are you a recent college grad who has no clue what to do with your life? Ireland is calling.
If you are currently enrolled in postsecondary education, or have graduated from college within the past 12 months, you qualify for a 12 month working holiday visa in Ireland. Explore the country’s seaside cliffs, search for four-leaf clovers, and enjoy a pint of Guinness while practicing your accent.
The Ireland working holiday visa has no age restrictions. The only qualification is that you must currently be enrolled in a postsecondary degree program — or have just graduated with one (any associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate degree will do).
You must apply by mail or at one of the Consulates General of Ireland, which are found in a few major cities across the country. You are required to show proof of your academic status and sufficient monetary funds.
Many backpackers choose to work in hospitality or agriculture, but professional jobs are available for those who would rather work in an office. Most jobs pay between €9.15 and €13 an hour. You won’t get rich, but you’ll have enough to pay your student loans and travel around Ireland and beyond.
You can find out how to apply for an US-Ireland Working Holiday Agreement on the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website.
New Zealand is every adventurer’s dream country. With epic snow-capped mountains, sandy beaches, and adrenaline-fueled sports, you’ll never want to leave.
Like Australia, New Zealand offers Working Holiday Visas to US citizens. If you work in the country’s agricultural industry for at least three months, you can extend your year-long visa for up to 15 months.
To qualify for a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa, you must be between 18 and 30 years old at the time of application, have full medical insurance, and at least $4,200 NZD in your bank account.
Are you over 30 years old? Don’t worry, you haven’t missed your chance to work and live in New Zealand. You can obtain a special New Zealand Working Holiday Visa through BUNAC until you hit 35.
New Zealand has a minimum wage of $15.25, but jobs often pay more. With a little frugal living, you’ll be able to pay your bills and go bungee jumping too.
You can apply for a New Zealand working holiday visa online.
Singapore offers a six-month Work Holiday Programme for US citizens between the ages of 18 and 25 who are currently enrolled in a university, or have graduated within the past 12 months. Unfortunately, not everyone will qualify because your university must be ranked in the top 200 for overall academic performance by the Times High Education World University Rankings.
Singapore can be a tough country to find a job, as it’s not entry-job friendly. Most companies will only consider applicants with at least a couple of years of experience. But, don’t let that deter you. ExpatEdna is proof that it can be done.
Singapore is a small country with a vibrant culture. Marvel at its high-tech tourist attractions and enjoy its worldly cuisine. Singapore is also a great launch pad to explore the rest of Southeast Asia.
You can apply for the Singapore Work Holiday Programme online.
The Republic of Korea also offers a Working Holiday Program for US citizens aged 18 to 30 who are currently a university student or have graduated in the past 12 months.
A South Korea working holiday visa can be hard to obtain for most people, because you need to have at least $10,000 USD in your bank account. Who has that kind of money laying around just out of college?
The best way to go to South Korea and save lots of money is to become an English teacher. Get your TEFL certification and apply to be an English teacher at a public school through EPIK or at a private language school or institution. Most jobs will provide free housing and healthcare, and will cover your flight to South Korea from your home country.
Many English teachers have managed to save up to $15,000 USD in a single year. If you really want to pay off your student loans quickly and travel, teaching English in South Korea is your best option.
You can find out more information about South Korea’s Working Holiday Program on the Consulate General website.
Don’t let student loans be an excuse to not travel.
There are many ways to travel the world and pay off your loans before you retire. Consider applying for a working holiday visa and discover the world of working abroad!
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